DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong says that his players must work “ten times harder” when they go to National League North leaders Gateshead today.

After losing in lacklustre fashion at home to Curzon Ashton on Good Friday, Quakers have dropped to tenth in the table, four points behind the last play-off spot with five games remaining. They’re in a position in which they can’t afford to drop many more points, and they’re up against the league leaders, who thumped Guiseley 6-0 away from home on Friday.

“We must improve on Friday’s performance,” said Armstrong, "Otherwise we’ll end up getting a spanking like Guiseley did.

“Gateshead are riding high at the moment, and we’ll have to rotate our squad again. Hopefully, we’ll have a few more bodies available. We need to bring some fresh legs in and put in a much-improved performance. If we don’t, we’ll end up getting turned over.

“Gateshead have got their noses in front at the top of the table after Brackley could only draw on Friday, and they’ll be high on confidence. We’ve got to work ten times better than we did on Friday.

“I was so disappointed because we brought a big crowd in, expecting us to put in a decent performance which wasn’t there.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves up. I apologised to the fans, but how many times do I have to apologise for a performance like that? We can’t just take our foot off the gas.

“In the 11 games prior to the Curzon Ashton game, the players had worked their socks off, but on Friday could they honestly say that they’d worked as hard as in the previous games?

“I’ll look at the stats, and I’m pretty certain they won’t be as high as in previous games. We were so poor with the ball which was unlike us.

“We must pick ourselves up today, because I’m not giving in until it’s mathematically impossible for us to get into the play-offs.”

Centre-half David Wheater could return to the starting line up after a groin injury, while Kallum Griffiths could come back in after sitting out the Curzon game. Striker Jake Cassidy could be missing after taking ill on Friday.

Meanwhile, Spennymoor joint-manager Anthony Johnson says that his side need five wins from five matches to reach the play-offs, starting today against Blyth Spartans at the Brewery Field.

After losing at York's LNER Community Stadium on Good Friday, Moors stand five points behind the play-off positions, so victory today is a necessity if they are to make it into the end-of-season shoot-out.

“We’ve got to find a way of getting five wins from five,” said Johnson.

“The players must show some guts now, because apart from when they won four successive games under Tommy Miller at the start of the season, they’ve not shown they’re more than capable of doing that.

“We’ll learn more about their motivation and character now. We want to know if the players want to get into the play-offs as much as we do.

“Over the last three or four weeks we’ve been within touching distance, but there was a lot of disappointment after the York game because we thought that we were getting somewhere.”

Moors have revealed that their other joint-manager, Bernard Morley, is in hospital and will miss their next two matches while he recuperates.